Top 10 Easy Anime to Learn Japanese for Beginners

Last Updated on 20.04.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

A lot of us want to start learning Japanese because of manga and anime — but we can use them to learn Japanese, too.

It’s easy for Japanese learners to feel stuck in a study rut. After all, how long can you glue your face to a JLPT textbook before reaching your phone? How many Japanese vocabulary words can you go through in Anki before you feel overwhelmed?

From classic, family-friendly Ghibli films and comedy-romance tropes to tear-jerking slice-of-life, check out our recommended anime shows to binge-watch if you’re a beginner in Japanese. These shows use simple, casual Japanese, so they’re easy to absorb — but still insightful. 

Also check out: 100 Japanese Anime Vocabulary Words You Can (or Cannot) Use.

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Why Use Anime to Learn Japanese? 

While using textbooks and workbooks is a great way to study Japanese, formal instructions can feel stiff and restricting. Oftentimes, they don’t provide you with the right practical insights either, like Japanese slang words, social context and casual, natural expressions. 

This is why anime and manga can provide valuable education to Japanese culture and daily lives. By watching Japanese media, you’re exposed to (almost) real-life conversations between Japanese people — something that is important when you can’t really immerse in Japanese society (in other words, when you’re not living in Japan). 

We recommend anyone to learn Japanese when they’ve got a solid foundation in the Japanese language — or at least when they’re around upper-beginner. If you start too soon, you won’t have the mind to understand or listen to anything. That way, you won’t mindlessly mimic what’s said on the shows and use it in the wrong context. 

Check out: 10 Phrases from Japanese Anime to Use.

How to Learn Japanese Using Anime  

Remember what we say about anime as a tool to help you learn natural expressions? Don’t expect the Japanese in anime to fully reflect real-life Japanese. A common pitfall among anime fans is adopting vocabulary words and phrases without fully understanding the meaning and contextual use.

For example, a lot of action anime will use temee (“you” in Japanese), but it’s a very offensive second-person pronoun. You’ll only risk offending native speakers or, worst, embarrassing yourself.

We want you to be aware that not all Japanese phrases and slang you’ll find in the anime world are appropriate for real-life use. Seinen genre, which is a subgenre targeted at young Japanese male audience, is known to contain rude slang words that you absolutely can’t use. 

After all, watching anime is only one ingredient of a large recipe. Don’t expect watching your favorite anime for 8 hours straight will magically turn you into a fluent speaker. You need both formal learning materials — like the right Japanese course that focuses on speaking and practices — and a casual study method.

Together, they create a well-rounded language learning progress. Here are a few tips to effectively make anime a part of your Japanese study plan.

1. Choose your anime genre

Anime shows like Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) and Jujutsu Kaisen (Sorcery Fight) are getting popular, but they use a lot of niche vocabularies that are not common in real-life use. For more educational purposes, try to start with lighter genres, like slice-of-life, romance or comedy. Anime for children, for example, are great because they contain simple and beginner-level Japanese.

With that said, in the long run, choose an anime and genre you enjoy watching. At the end of the day, finding an engaging show or film you can stick to is a bigger motivator to learn Japanese — and, ultimately, a more effective alternative.

2. Playing around with the subtitles.

This particularly works when you’re around intermediate-level. By opting for English subtitles with Japanese, you’re actively reviewing and learning new kanji. It’s also a great chance to condition your listening skill, too.

3. Fill in your knowledge gap and write notes

Whenever you hear a new word or any phrases that are unfamiliar, write it down in a note. You can then compile all the new vocabulary into a flashcard (like Anki).

Check out: How to Learn Japanese with the Anki Flashcard System.

4. Rewatch and repeat the anime episodes

We don’t expect anyone to understand 100% of what’s said in the episode. When it’s becoming too difficult, try to learn and go back again. See how much your comprehension has improved over time.

anime to learn japanese

10 Best Anime to Learn Japanese

We’re not in the business of recommending children’s anime movies. At least, not all. Part of why anime is a great ingredient to your overall Japanese progress recipe is in its entertainment factor: you need to love what you watch.

We’re combining a mix of family-friendly, comedy, romance and slice-of-life anime films and TV shows. You can watch them all through a paid streaming platform, like Netflix, Crunchyroll or Hulu.

Spirited Away

What it’s about: On the way to their new home in the suburbs, Chihiro and her parents unknowingly entered the world of Kami (Japanese Shinto spirits). After her parents are turned into pigs, she disguises as a worker in a bathhouse to free herself and her parents from the spiritual world. Her journey is accompanied by a boy named Haku. 

Why we love it: You can’t dive into anime without hearing about Ghibli Studio, which is the Japanese equivalent of Disney. Two of their most iconic and successful films are Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro

Unlike most fantasy genres, the magical element in Spirited Away isn’t the main focus. Rather, it’s made a vehicle for the plot. Because of this, the dialogues and language don’t feel overbearing. In fact, the vibe is closer to slice-of-life than adventure or fantasy.  You’ll listen to regular Japanese phrases and everyday conversations. 

Genre: Adventure, fantasy, children
Watch on: Netflix

My Neighbour Totoro

What it’s about: The film follows Satsuki and Mei who, along with their father, move to rural Japan to be close to their recovering ill mother. As the sisters settle in their new old house, they quickly discover and befriend playful spirits in the nearby forest — particularly a giant furry creature they call Tororo. 

Why we love it: My Neighbour Totoro is the most well-known Ghibli film. Most Hayao Miyazaki’s works are targeted at children (although we can’t say adults don’t love them), so they use simple and standard Japanese that even non-native speakers can understand. It’s a great movie for anyone to fall in love with Japan and the language. 

Genre: Adventure, fantasy, children
Watch on: Netflix

Haikyuu!

What it’s about: When Hinata Shouyou watched a national volleyball match, he quickly fall in love with the sport. Despite his short height, he grow determined to become a volleyball player and join his star player’s previous volleyball club.  

Why we love it: Most characters in Haikyuu are high school boys, so you’ll learn a lot of slang words and casual phrases used by Japanese students (again, keep in mind that Japanese anime is still different from real Japanese). It’s a great option for Japanese learners who prefer more action-packed, coming-of-age anime without overbearing vocabulary words. 

Genre: Sports, comedy
Available on: Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll

Otaku ni Koi Wa Muzukashii (Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku)

What it’s about: The anime show focuses on Narumi, a closeted fujoshi (a woman who is a  fan of male-male romance) and her budding romance with her childhood friend Hirotaka, an otaku who works in the same company as her. 

Why we love it: If you love lighthearted romance with a fun couple dynamic, Otaku ni Koi Wa Muzukashii is the right option. The anime draws light on a salaryman’s everyday life in Japan and how Japanese people talk. There’s a mix of both formal and informal Japanese, so you can learn practical conversations and cultural insights. The plot is relatively straightforward, so you’ll have an easy time following the story. 

Genre: Romance, comedy
Available on: Netflix, Prime Video

Gokushufudou (The Way of the Househusband)

What it’s about: Once a legendary and feared yakuza member, Tatsu is now a stay-at-home husband living with his wife. Despite trying to become a great househusband, his controversial past and appearance often give the wrong impression. 

Why we love it: There’s not that much dialogue in the anime show, but its lack of complexity is what makes Gokushufudou perfect for upper beginners who might have trouble with the fast pace of regular animes. Most of all, it’s a great chance to review practical Japanese words about daily life and household activities. The episodes are short and entertaining. For intermediate learners, we recommend switching off the subtitles. 

Genre: Comedy
Watch on: Netflix

Doraemon

What it’s about: Nobita Nobi, a fifth-grade Japanese boy, lazy weak and unlucky. Following a series of unfortunate events in the future, his great-great-grandson, Sewashi Nobi, sends a robot cat named Doraemon back to the past to take care of Nobita. 

Why we love it: Doraemon is a classic anime that even non-anime fans know. Because it’s produced for children, the anime uses basic and easy Japanese that excludes jargon or slang. You’ll hear common, everyday words, so it’s the right starting point if you’ve just been introduced to Japanese.  

Genre: Comedy, science fiction 
Watch on: Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar

Blue Period 

What it’s about: After discovering a painting at his high school’s art club and getting inspired by it, Yatora Yaguchi joined the club. From here, the story follows Yaguchi in his attempts to enter the Tokyo University of Arts.

Why we love it: Coming-of-age anime shows are always great for learning Japanese. Most of the characters will use casual Japanese forms and regular phrases for everyday conversations. The sentences won’t be as short as those in children’s anime, but following casual talks between friends is possible for upper-beginner to intermediate students.

Genre: Coming-of-age, drama
Available on: Netflix

You Lie in April 

What it’s about: After the death of his mother, former piano prodigy Kosei becomes unable to hear the sound of his piano. A meeting with Kaori Miyazano, a free-spirited violinist, persuades him to be her accompanist, and he eventually falls in love with her.

Why we love it: The anime mostly uses informal Japanese language. Unlike a lot of seinen TV shows or films, you won’t find a lot of profanity or weird slang words (like Naruto’s dattebayo), so beginners don’t have to worry about learning the wrong thing. The vocabulary for this series focuses on music and everyday life, so it’s perfect for Japanese language students who already have a solid grasp of basic-intermediate grammar and vocabulary.

Genre: Romance, drama
Available on: Netflix

Your Name

What it’s about: Mitsuha Miyamizu is a high school girl living in rural Japan. Bored of the town, she wishes to be a Tokyo boy in her next life. Taki Tachibana is a high school boy in Tokyo. One day, both of their bodies suddenly swap, and every other morning, they must live as one another. Things get complicated as they finally decide to see each other.

Why we love it: Your Name holds a special place on our list (call us biased). They’re not just great to learn Japanese. In fact, the speed of the conversations can feel fast, and the complex plot makes the whole story not so easy to digest. But what puts this anime on this list is its depiction of the life of teenagers in Japan. You’re able to see into Japanese culture.

Genre: Romance, fantasy
Available on: Amazon Prime

Wolf Children

What it’s about: College student Hana falls in love with a man, who reveals himself to be a werewolf. They later have two children, Yuki and Ame. The man soon died in an accident. Now, as a single mother, Hana moves to the countryside to raise her children — as wolves and humans.

Why we love it: A lot of children’s anime, which we usually recommend for beginner Japanese students, lacks substance. They’re good for learning, but they’re not necessarily catered to adults. Wolf Children ticks two things on our list: simple, easy conversations and a great story. The film’s central theme is “parent and child” between Hana, Yuki and Ame. This means you’ll hear a lot of short, casual Japanese.

Genre: Drama
Available on: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime

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Love what you read but think it’s time to take a Japanese course? Get in touch with us and let us know how we can help you achieve your Japanese language target. If you’re unsure where you are, we provide a free Japanese level check.

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo. We offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learners. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on the creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo, please visit our contact page.